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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 June, 2005, 03:35 GMT 04:35 UK
Lions opt for bulk against Maori
Julian White, Steve Thompson and Andrew Sheridan form the Lions front row
The trio are the heaviest Lions front row ever
The Lions have selected the biggest front row in their history for Saturday's heavyweight showdown with the New Zealand Maori in Hamilton.

Andrew Sheridan, Steve Thompson and Julian White weigh a combined 54st 10lb (348kg), with locks Simon Shaw and Paul O'Connell adding more bulk.

Fly-half Stephen Jones, scrum-half Matt Dawson, centre Gordon D'Arcy and number eight Simon Taylor also start.

But England's Jonny Wilkinson is still waiting to make his tour bow.

Wasps forward Shaw flew to New Zealand last week after being called up to replace injured Malcolm O'Kelly.

Simon is raring to go
Lions coach Andy Robinson
Scotland's Taylor, fully fit following a hamstring problem, has a chance to press for a Test back-row place after Lawrence Dallaglio's exit through injury.

Only Wilkinson, who should feature against Wellington next Wednesday, Shane Byrne, Gareth Cooper, Gareth Thomas, Jason Robinson, Simon Easterby and a suspended Neil Back have still to start a game.

The Lions side for what is effectively an unofficial "fourth Test," given the Maori's revered strength, features seven Englishmen, four Welsh, three Irish and one Scot.

Sheridan's solitary England cap was gained as a replacement against Canada last autumn.

But after the Lions scrum struggled to make an impact during opening tour victories over Bay of Plenty and Taranaki, the 26-year-old has a golden chance to press for Test selection.

"We have a lot of respect for the Maori front-row," said Lions coach Andy Robinson.

"Everybody has been saying that New Zealand forward play in general has not been as it was, but I don't think that's been the case.

"I think they have put a lot of attention into their set-plays, and as we saw in the Taranaki game, these guys are very good scrummagers.

"It is going to be a huge battle up front, and it is important to dominate in that area."

With Richard Hill and Martyn Williams favoured to fill the two flanker roles, Taylor now has the opportunity to join the number eight equation with Martin Corry and Michael Owen.

"Simon is raring to go," added Robinson. "Having seen the good performances of the back row over the past two games, we want Simon to perform to that level and put pressure on everybody in fighting for that Test spot."

British and Irish Lions team to play NZ Maori:
J Lewsey (England); T Shanklin (Wales), B O'Driscoll (Ireland, capt), G D'Arcy (Ireland), S Williams (Wales); S Jones (Wales), M Dawson (England); A Sheridan (England), S Thompson (England), J White (England), S Shaw (England), P O'Connell (Ireland), R Hill (England), M Williams (Wales), S Taylor (Scotland).
Replacements: S Byrne (Ireland), G Jenkins (Wales), B Kay (England), M Owen (Wales), D Peel (Wales), R O'Gara (Ireland), S Horgan (Ireland).

Interview: British and Irish Lions' Jason Robinson

Interview: Lions' Gareth Thomas

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